SUNNY ISLES BEACH, Fla. – South Floridians are emotional over what they’re seeing in Ukraine, many of them calling and texting family and friends who are fighting for their lives.
“For my family in Ukraine we are praying for their safety,” said Ukrainian-American Iryna Rodorigo.
They’re reacting to the heartbreaking images coming out of Ukraine as the nation is rocked with bombing, causing buildings to crumble and Ukrainians to seek refuge in neighboring countries.
Sunny Isles resident Anton Abrosau, born in Belarus, has been watching the chaos unfold from his cellphone. With family in friends in both Ukraine and Russia, he worries for their safety.
“It is war against Ukraine,” he said.
Donna Maksymowich Waskiewicz, who directs the Ukrainian Dancers of Miami, says many of her performers still have family in Ukraine.
“My family is in western Ukraine, which we thought would be safe, but we found out very early on that Putin went right for the entire country,” she said. “Everybody is concerned, heartbroken and devastated.”
But while many are worried for the safety of the innocent caught in the middle of an invasion with casualties on the rise, there are others who don’t call what’s happening in Ukraine an invasion at all.
“Russian people live there. Russian people, because they are Russian,” said Natalia Rudobaba, a Russian living in South Florida. “That’s it.”
Hundreds of people from various backgrounds stood in solidarity with Ukraine on Thursday night outside Hallandale Beach City Hall, calling for an end to the Russian invasion.
“Putin is killing my country. Putin is killing my people,” Ukrainian-American Oksana Rozmovna said.
Some Russians also took part. One woman held a sign that said: “I am Russian but I am ashamed of my country.”
“It’s like brother on brother, fighting brothers,” Russian Yevgeniy Gorbunov said.
Those gathered were hoping and praying for a peaceful ending.
“Nobody wants a war between our nations,” Ukrainian-American Natalia Chermysh said. “Everybody wants a peaceful resolution, which can only happen if Putin is going to go away.”
Organizers say more demonstrations in South Florida are planned, including one at Gateway Park on Friday night.
Said Rozmovna: “I’m very upset because I’m here, I can’t help my people”